When we talk about “Conservation Minded Design,” what we really mean is Low Impact Development (LID) or Green Infrastructure. LID is an approach to land development (or re-development) that can save money and works with nature to manage stormwater as close to its source as possible. LID employs principles such as preserving and recreating natural landscape features, minimizing water-blocking materials and designs to create functional and appealing site drainage that treats stormwater as a resource rather than a waste product. There are many practices that have been used to adhere to these principles such as bioretention facilities, rain gardens, vegetated rooftops, rain barrels, and permeable pavements. By implementing LID principles and practices, water can be managed in a way that reduces the impact of built areas and promotes the natural movement of water within an ecosystem or watershed. Applied on a broad scale, LID can maintain or restore a watershed's hydrologic and ecological functions. LID has been characterized as a sustainable stormwater practice by the Water Environment Research Foundation and others. This description was taken from the USEPA webpage on LID, which has some great resources including a 2013 publication on “Case Studies Analyzing the Economic Benefits of Low Impact Development and Green Infrastructure Programs.” The intent of this document is to promote the use of Low Impact Development/Green Infrastructure, where appropriate, to supplement grey stormwater infrastructure.
Timing is critical! By working with communities and developers in the early stages of a project, we can help identify cost savings and environmental benefits that may not be possible when trying to make changes late in the process. Stormwater management, natural area protection and green infrastructure need to be incorporated from the beginning to reap the full value that they can provide to a site plan. These practices can also be implemented and multiple scales as described below.
In the Community: Communities and counties have the opportunity to not only lead through good, consistent ordinances that support, encourage or require LID/Green Infrastructure, but they can also lead by example by implementing green infrastructure practices throughout their jurisdiction. Incorporating rain gardens, permeable paving, green alleys, green roofs and native plants allows for others to experience these practices and feel comfortable with them. Communities can also provide outreach materials and programming like Conservation@Home to help encourage these practices throughout their communities.
In the Neighborhood: Homeowners associations generally have responsibility for common ground and detention areas; these are great places to investigate the benefits of green infrastructure. Naturalizing areas around detention basins can reduce maintenance costs over time, protect water quality and provide natural spaces for residents to enjoy. Learn more about how your Homeowners Association can participate in the Conservation@Home Program.
At Home: Homeowners of all sizes and means can make a difference by incorporating native, perennial plants into existing flower beds, install rain barrels to collect and reuse rainwater, enhance your soil by composting yard & garden waste. Consider permeable pavers or pavement when replacing driveways and sidewalks, or build a rain garden in the wet spot in your yard. Learn more about these and other practices through our Conservation@Home Program.